'Possible' tornado causes havoc
Mountain View County residents are still cleaning up the debris left in the wake of a “possible” tornado on July 3 that tore a seven-kilometre path through farms and acreages 12 kilometres west of Didsbury.
“You could see it swirling around. It didn’t look like a real, real tornado but you could see the dust kicking around, but it wasn’t a real super funnel cloud,” said Cole Harvie, a county resident who assisted a storm-blasted neighbour on an acreage along Rge. Rd. 31, about three kilometres north of Highway 582.
“He is missing half his house. His hay shed is knocked down. His other shed is gone. Another neighbour had his barn blown out. There are a lot of trees smashed down.”
Firefighters and police said the storm did not cause any injuries to people.
The violent impact of the storm was felt in the Town of Olds as well.
Monica Hubley, apartment manager at 4601-48 St. in Olds, said she heard the intense wind about 1:30 p.m. A large, toppled maple missed the building, but blocked entry to the complex.
“I saw the tree coming down and I ran. The wind came through and pulled the tree out,” said Hubley.
Basement suite resident Rick Collins heard the intense wind and took cover, thinking the tree would crash through his window.
“I thought it was coming through. I ran,” said Collins.
Dan Kulak, Environment Canada meteorologist, said his office received media calls from across the country about the storm, particularly its severity. He said from the photo evidence he has seen the storm can’t be rated any higher than an F1, the lowest damage and wind speed level given to a suspected tornado incident.
“We don’t normally send a team out to a localized situation like this. The reports are often unreliable,” said Kulak. He said F1 wind speeds are typically between 120 and 170 km/hr. “What we have is one house that was damaged. At best right now we are classifying this as a possible tornado unless other evidence comes to light.”
Shortly after the storm hit the area, Didsbury RCMP and seven units of fire crews from Didsbury, Olds and Sundre were dispatched to seven different locations.
“By the time we got there it was long gone. It was fast moving,” said Bob Wright, safety officer with the Didsbury fire department. He said the storm appeared to cut a path seven kilometres long and up to half a kilometre wide in an area starting south of Highway 582 and continuing northeast up to the Bergen Road.
Wright said fire crews made sure that people on the scene were safe and unhurt. Wright said crews also checked to ensure gas and power at each site were shut off.
“Neighbours came from all directions and some had their chainsaws,” said Wright, adding many people assisted with clearing the roads of fallen trees.
Didsbury RCMP Sgt. Jeff Jacobson said there was “significant” damage to the one property along Rge. Rd. 31, about three kilometres north of Highway 582.
“The exterior of the home had extensive damage and the interior was damaged as well. It was pretty scattered inside,” said Jacobson, adding that a number of outbuildings were also smashed and a trailer was destroyed. “It was very fortunate nobody was hurt.”
Jacobson said RCMP members conducted patrols in the area during the evening to maintain a “visible presence” for rural residents. He said Victim Services was called in to assist people impacted the most by the storm.
Meanwhile, up to 15 Mountain View County staff members were called to the area to clean up rural roads that were blocked by fallen trees.
Ryan Morrison, the county’s director of emergency management, said staff was out until 7 p.m. on Tuesday and returned the following day to finish the cleanup. He could give no estimate of the dollar value in total damages caused by the storm.
–With files from Murray Elliott